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Attested since the 1930s in the sense “chance to re-take a golf stroke”; probably from the name Mulligan, after a golfer who replayed a stroke. See Wikipedia for more information.


mulligan (countable and uncountable, plural mulligans)

  1. Mulligan stew.
    • 1918 September, W. C. Tuttle, "A Rootin' Tooter", in Boys' Life, volume 8, number 9, page 5 [1]:
      "I've got a mulligan on the stove upstairs," grinned Sloan, getting out of his chair.
    • 1956, Nelson Algren, A Walk on the Wild Side, 1998 paperback edition, →ISBN, pages 90–91 [2]:
      Another afternoon Dove jungled up with four others beside a creek. [] A couple of the boys got a mulligan going. Dove lay naked in the creek smoking a cigarette and smelling the mulligan.
    • p. 1932, a. 1998, Erling Strom, as quoted in, 1998, Louis W. Dawson, Wild Snow, →ISBN, page 105 [3]:
      When we did, nobody was there, but we found two empty sleeping bags and some mulligan in a pot on a stove.
  2. (golf) An unpenalized chance to re-take a stroke that went awry.
    If you lose your drive in the water, take a mulligan and try again.
  3. (collectible card games) An opportunity (sometimes penalized) for a player to reshuffle their cards and draw a new initial hand at the beginning of a game.
    • 2009 February 17, LSJ, “Re: Why doesn't VTES have a mulligan rule?”, in, Usenet[4], message-ID <soDml.10826$>:
      Pokemon has a mulligan rule: if you have no Pokemon in your opening hand, you show it to your opponent and redraw. You may also take a mulligan, I believe, if your opening hand has no basic power cards.
    • 2009 June 27, Zoe Stephenson, “Magic: The Gathering Rules FAQ, v4.03 (part 2)”, in, Usenet[5], message-ID <games/magic-t-g/rules/>:
      April 1997 introduced the modern 'Paris mulligan' rule; previously a mulligan required either all land or no land in the hand and could be taken only once, now the mulligan can be taken as many times as desired with any hand, but reduces starting hand size by one each time the mulligan is taken.
  4. (by extension) A second chance.
    Don't do poorly in your first interview; you won't get a mulligan.
    • 2006, Shelley Lewis, Naked Republicans, Villard, →ISBN, page 172 [6]:
      It was a low moment when he lost to a smooth-talking Southern smart-ass like Bill Clinton—good thing he got a mulligan, sort of, when Georgie ran.
    • 2007, Steve Alten, The Shell Game, →ISBN, page 279 [7]:
      While I too believe in investing in alternative energy resources, you don't get a mulligan when a nuclear weapon or a dirty bomb goes off.
    • 2008, Ross Dale, Embedded, Sourcebooks, →ISBN, page 202 [8]:
      I wasn't sure, but I had a hunch all I needed was a mulligan. If I could only reconnect with her somehow and begin all over again.


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